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DHS official told to stop analysis on Russia election interference because it 'made the president look bad', whistleblower complaint claims

Justin Vallejo
New York
Wednesday 09 September 2020 22:29 BST
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US president Donald Trump with Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf
US president Donald Trump with Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf (AFP via Getty Images)

Department of Homeland Security senior leadership allegedly told an official to stop analysis of Russian interference in the 2020 election because it “made the President look bad”, according to a whistleblower complaint.

Brian Murphy, who was head of the office of intelligence and analysis, said acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf directed him to hold an “intelligence notification” regarding Russian disinformation efforts, according to the complaint first reported by The Washington Post.

Mr Murphy said, according to the complaint, that it was “improper” to hold a vetted intelligence product for political embarrassment, and that it would put the national security of the country at risk.

In May, Mr Wolf allegedly told Mr Murphy that he was to cease intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the US and instead report on interference activities by China and Iran, which were specific instructions from the White House National Security Advisor, Robert O’Brien.

“Mr Murphy informed Mr Wolf he would not comply with these instructions, as doing so would put the country in substantial and specific danger,” the whistleblower complaint read.

Weeks later on 7 July, DHS chief of staff John Gountanis emailed Mr Murphy telling him not to share an intelligence notification until speaking to Mr Wolf. After the pair met the next day, Mr Wolf allegedly told Mr Murphy to hold the intelligence before excluding him from future meetings on the subject.

Mr Murphy’s attorney, Mark Zaid, said in a statement shared with the Post that the allegations of misconduct against DHS leadership involved political distortion of intelligence analysis and retaliation.

“We have alerted both the Executive and Legislative Branches of these allegations and we will appropriately cooperate with oversight investigations, especially in a classified setting,” he said.

The complaint, filed with the DHS inspector general on Tuesday, comes a week after the DHS was revealed to have withheld the publication of an intelligence bulletin warning of a Russian scheme to spread misinformation about the mental health of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

Titled “Russia Likely to Denigrate Health of US Candidates to Influence 2020 Election,” the bulletin was sent to the agency’s legislative and public affairs office for review on 7 July, according to internal emails and a draft of the bulletin obtained by ABC News.

The bulletin said with “high confidence” that “Russian malign influence actors are likely to continue denigrating presidential candidates through allegations of poor mental or physical health to influence the outcome of the 2020 election”.

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